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Public Consumption in Canada

The Canadian federal government recommends that consuming Cannabis in public should be prohibited in locations where smoking is already banned, allowing smoking or vaping in designated areas.  Similar to tobacco bylaws, public consumption will also be banned in bars, restaurants, school properties, daycares, hospitals, pools and sports fields where children are present.  Although the government plans to allow public consumption they have also left it up to the individual province and municipalities to make the final decision.

Public consumptions laws vary countrywide, only a few provinces and territories are allowing Cannabis smoking and vaping in designated areas.  These currently include Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Nunavut.  Furthermore, each municipality will potentially have different bylaws also, making it confusing for recreational users.

Calgary city council, for example, has recently proposed a citywide ban on public consumption of Cannabis.  The argument is that the Cannabis bylaws should be like the liquor bylaws.  Associating Cannabis with alcohol will only encourage misconceptions.  Alcohol has no medicinal value compared to Cannabis, even when used recreationally.

There would be exceptions for people with a medical marijuana prescription and the city may be even allowing consumption at festivals and in designated ‘weed’ gardens.  These recent developments make it clear the city wants to limit consumption in public even though the provincial and federal governments have both allowed it.

Our neighbours to the south have had some experience with this issue.  Denver has also banned public consumption but experienced initial difficulties managing the ‘Cannabis tourism’ that occurred because of legalization.  In 2016, Denver voters approved Initiative 300 granting businesses the ability to apply for a license to allow for adult marijuana consumption in designated areas.  The cities first social marijuana license for a café was finally approved this past February.

Agreed, there should be designated places for users but restricting public consumption from one municipality to another is confusing and will be hard for authorities to enforce.  Standardization would be the best option for consumers.  Fines will be given to those who violate bylaws, putting more demand on the legal system.

Later this summer recreational Cannabis will be legal in Canada, bringing with it legislation hurdles and general confusion.  The issue of public consumption will be ongoing until a compromise is reached between public safety and citizens’ rights.


City and County of Denver, CBC, The Globe and Mail, The Denver Post, Brazeau Seller LLPRabble.ca, and Province of Nova Scotia.

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